Join our team ... Cordell Health is recruiting

About the role

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We are looking for a part-time Occupational Health Advisor (OHA) to join our team and are keen to hear from anyone who shares our values. The role would suit someone based around Oxford and who is willing to travel within the Thames Valley area.  We are keen to hear from those still in or about to start their training to be an OHA or those who are newly qualified and are looking for their first role.

About Cordell Health

Cordell Health is an occupational health consultancy set up as a social enterprise, specialising in providing early intervention and specialist support to employees, HR and managers on health and wellbeing at work. We are based at our main office near Reading and provide clinics and support to workplaces across the Thames Valley/M4 corridor from London to Bristol.

Our founders and directors are both FFOM qualified specialist occupational physicians with a genuine passion to develop the field of occupational health, including the education and development of our people. We pride ourselves on our innovative and tailored approach to service delivery and our close working relationships with our clients. 

How to apply

In the first instance, please send your CV and a covering email to our Occupational Health Nurse Manager Sue Bedford at sue@cordellhealth.co.uk. The closing date for applications is 15th June 2018.

A Manager’s guide to understanding Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and ADHD in the workplace.

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Having a diverse workforce has numerous benefits.  Many companies and managers see these benefits and are recruiting people from all walks of life.  But for some, there is a fear of the unknown and a lack of awareness of the impact or changes that would need to be made in the workplace in order to bring a person with a mental or physical difference into the team. 

In this week’s blog, we explore the four most common conditions, referred to in the context of neurodiversity, and suggest adjustments employers might consider to support these employees and maximise their contribution to the organisation. The aim is to mobilise the benefits those who have neurodiverse conditions can bring to work safely, without disadvantage compared to other employees.  Adjustments may cost little or nothing; having an open mind and a desire for innovation and positive change are the key to realising the business opportunities neurodiversity can bring.

Autism

What is it? Autism is a developmental disability characterised by rigid thinking, challenges with social interaction and communication, as well as restrictive and repetitive behaviours.

Strengths: Problem solving, analytical thinking, logical, sustained focus and capacity for lengthy periods of concentration. Can have great technical ability and attention to detail for in-depth tasks. Punctual, reliable, dedicated and loyal.

Challenges: The level of challenge is different for each person, but the need for strict rigidity in routines and tasks, as well as the avoidance of change, often needs managing. Obsessive behaviours and poor social skills can cause friction with colleagues who don’t understand the disability. 

Solutions: An agreed detailed training plan, as well as a structure to the working day, will assist.  Access to a mentor to provide support through the social and self-esteem challenges those with autism commonly face.  Education for other members of staff in how to work with those with autism will help.  Consider redesigning a job to play to their strengths.

Dyslexia

What is it? Dyslexia is defined by the British Dyslexic Association (BDA) as a lifelong specific learning difficulty that mainly affects the development of literacy and language-related skills.  It is characterised by difficulties with processing words, rapidly naming, and working memory. A person with dyslexia’s skill in reading and writing will often not match their intelligence.

Strengths: Creative thought, insight and coming from a different perspective in problem-solving – “thinking outside of the box”.  Those with dyslexia can have an exceptional ability for pattern or trend spotting, whilst also being able “to see the big picture”. May well be “visual thinkers”, grasp opportunities, and good at problem solving and non-verbal communication. 

Challenges: Spelling and handwriting, short-term memory function, timekeeping and attention span. May have self-esteem and anxiety issues. 

Solutions: Awareness training for colleagues and managers, and training for the dyslexic employee to recognise and address areas for development. Mind-mapping software, dictation tools, and other resources to help those with dyslexia function at work and optimise their performance. Different coloured text or paper can make reading easier and a variety of communication styles (visual, audio) may help on an individual basis. 

Dyspraxia 

What is it? Dyspraxia is a developmental disorder characterised by coordination problems. This may have been first noticed as delayed or lower ability in fine or gross motor skills (for example playing sports).

Strengths: Insightful and good at creative ‘‘big picture’’ thinking, pattern-spotting and reasoning. Resourceful and determined problem solvers.

Challenges: Hand-eye co-ordination, spatial awareness, sensitivity to noise, touch, smell and taste. There can be reading, writing and speech difficulties, and short-term memory, organisation or planning challenges. 

Solutions: A positive and encouraging work environment with disability awareness training for all employees. Technology to aid memory, voice recognition software, reminders or electronic diary to aid memory. Regular work breaks. Support of a coach in work to aid their organisational abilities. 

ADHD

What is it? Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disorder of brain function that is characterised by the person being inattentive, hyperactive or impulsive. 

Strengths: The constant desire for stimulation and information means those with ADHD often excel under pressure, can handle uncertainty and are often skilled at multitasking and taking calculated risks.  They may be insightful and good at creative thinking and problem-solving. 

Challenges: Maybe “absent-minded”, easily distracted, impatient, impulsive. May seem distracted, distressed, restless or disorganised. Time management can be a challenge and there may be social awkwardness or have problems of self-esteem, depending on the severity of ADHD.

Solutions: Helpful and empathetic management, and perhaps a mentor to support with coping strategies and to help prioritise and organise goals, priorities and “to do” lists. Clear communication and technology to aid memory.  Regular breaks and time for physical activity during the day. 

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For any individual, and especially in the context of neurodiverse conditions, it is important for managers and HR advisors to understand that there is no “one size fits all” solution.  Each person will face their own challenges and our advice is to keep an open mind, maintain an honest dialogue, and to accept people for who they are. By working with employees to find the best path for them, and to discuss and understand the coping strategies they already have in place, employers will be able to reap the rewards of a successful and productive workforce whose strength lies in its diversity.  

Advice on disability awareness training may be found at Cordell Health

Further information on supporting those with disabilities in the workplace, in order to realise the potential through their abilities, may be found on the Remploy website.

Why we need more professionals in occupational health!

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The Council for Work and Health have revealed that the occupational health sector is understaffed in their report: ‘Planning The Future: implications for occupational health, planning and delivery’. In this publication, they reveal that demographic trends and lifestyle changes have led to a greater need for more occupational health services and how the whole sector is in urgent need of recruitment. 

The report has been written for anyone from senior policymakers, to employers and managers. It supports the need for occupational health to diversify and demonstrate to business the benefits and return on investment that comes with quality occupational health support. 

Concern has arisen after the number of professionals training for careers in occupational health has fallen. It’s felt that the increasingly complex needs of the nations’ workforce, with increasing requirements for mental health care as well as the increasing prevalence of long-term chronic conditions and the particular challenges of ‘lifestyle diseases’ caused by obesity present a challenge to medical professionals. It is also recognised that the speciality of occupational health is not well known or publicised and that the rewards this career brings with it not publicly acknowledged. 

Whilst NHS resources are good, they are stretched, and therefore occupational health should become part of both mainstream healthcare and every business strategy. Calling on external providers to meet a need or keep a workforce healthy should become the norm. Every business has the power to help change the way health and wellbeing are thought about in the workplace. 

There is an absolute and urgent need to attract and train high calibre occupational health professionals by developing clear and attractive career pathways. The report demonstrates that we need an ‘occupational health workforce with a distributed range of knowledge, skills and competencies’, to cope with the changes to the nation's workforce. 

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Recruitment is an ongoing hot topic here at Cordell Health. We constantly strive to make sure our team is recruited from differing backgrounds so that each individual team member brings something new to the table. We support all of our clinicians in further specialisation in fields of their choice which will add value to our clients’ companies.

Nikki Cordell says ‘working in occupational health is one of the most rewarding careers you can have. The diversity of the role and the opportunity to work in both the public and private sector at Cordell Health means no two days are the same.  The impact you can have on an individual and their future can be life-changing. We are always looking to support training in the field of occupational health and when the right person wants to join the team, we are happy to explore job opportunities within the business. ’

If you have a background in health or health administration and are interested in discussing a potential career in occupational health in these exciting times, or just want to experience this speciality, please get in touch with the team at Cordell Health.  We would also be interested in hearing from you if you already work in occupational health and are looking to explore different and potentially challenging opportunities in a different type of occupational health business. 

Why Diversity Builds Success

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This week is National Autism Awareness Week and schools, workplaces and individuals have been baking, running and dressing up to raise money and awareness nationwide. 

Understanding autism and other differences are, of course, something we all need to embrace in life and work, and it’s really got us thinking at Cordell Health this week. We have spent a lot of time exploring neurodiversity and how we can work with our clients’ businesses to embrace it and use it to build success. There is proven evidence that the two go hand in hand if we can only remove the stereotypes and truly understand what neurodiversity is all about.

In modern thinking, neurodiversity is being used to express the belief that we should reject the social norms and stigmas that affect neurological differences such as autism, dyslexia or ADHD. They are natural human variations that cannot and should not be ‘cured’. We are ultimately ALL different and should be seeking to embrace and maximise the talents of people who think differently.

In February this year, the CIPD released a new guide to neurodiversity in the workplace. It’s a wordy but fascinating read for any conscientious HR professional with a gap in the workforce or tasked with managing a neurodivergent employee.

It is widely accepted that more than 10% of the country is likely to be neurodivergent in some way.  This means that one in ten interviewees will likely have some kind of neurodivergent condition and HR need to be aware that a person’s ‘differences’ may be regarded as a disability under the Equality Act 2010.

Considering these 10% an ‘inconvenient truth’ is not a good business strategy, they are a high performing talent pool that has high-value skills not always accessible to the nondivergent 90%.  A diverse workforce is good for everyone. The CIPD makes a brilliant analogy that when picking a football team you pick from a cross-section of the best in all areas; the fastest runner, the best kicker, the highest jumper!  Not every employee is going to be able to be a highly creative big picture (right brain) thinker and not every employee detailed and process focused (left brain) tasked.

Neurodiversity enables us to remove the stigma and barriers of employment that are associated with dyslexia, autism or ADHD etc.. so we can stop thinking about what they CAN’T do and can start thinking about what they CAN do. Their ability not their disability.  Whilst group labels are helpful for the individual, for diagnosis or understanding the neurological difference, they should not be used as ‘one size fits all’. NO two individuals are the same whether neurodivergent or not.

When overhauling a business approach to divergent thinking there is much that can be done. Senior management needs to champion the process and work with HR and line managers to make change happen. They need to be trained and equipped with the skills and ability to bring a diverse team together. To see the team as a whole, of which each member has different strengths and weaknesses and requires a different kind of support.

According to the CIPD, the interview process can unintentionally exclude neurodiverse talent. Job descriptions should be clear without jargon and with very clear lists of the core skills and experience  ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to have’.  Always include a diversity and inclusion statement that states you are ‘happy to discuss reasonable adjustments’ and that signals that you welcome candidates with different identities and thinking styles.

In the interview process, ensure interviewers are trained to be empathetic to people’s differences and able to understand that a lack of eye contact or unconventional body language is not necessarily rudeness. Consider rethinking the standard interview format, as the CIPD points out, all a traditional interview demonstrates is your social skills, not your ability or talent to complete a set task.

Make sure the ethos permeates to the core of the brand. Include diversity and recruitment statements on the website as well as links to support groups or internal case studies and information.

The rewards of integration come thick and fast. A diverse workforce, within which each member is working to their individual strengths, is motivated, loyal and highly productive. JP Morgan Chase started a pilot program in 2015 introducing employees on the autism spectrum into the workplace. They reported that ‘after three to six months working in the Mortgage Banking Technology division, autistic workers were doing the work of people who took three years to ramp up, and were even 50% more productive’.

For more information about Autism in the workplace visit the National Autistic Society or the .gov website or find out about the Disability Confident Scheme.

Have you ever thought about overhauling your recruitment process and actively encouraging a diverse workforce and the many benefits it could bring?

Employee Interview - Nikki Cordell

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This week we start the first of a series of blog posts featuring our greatest asset ... our employees! We hope you enjoy reading this small insight into our work, our passions and our inspirations.

First off the post is Nikki Cordell

What is your role at Cordell Health?

I am the managing director and consultant occupational physician responsible for delivering specialist case management services to our direct HR clients and more technical contracts.

How did you come to start the business?

After working as a contractor and experiencing a number of different occupational health models, I wanted to look at delivering occupational health differently. My husband had similar feelings and we started up Cordell Health. We are a social enterprise and our aim is to raise awareness of disability in the workplace, as well as deliver evidence-based occupational health services that can be integrated into an organisation’s people strategy whenever possible.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I love the variety and the impact you can have both on businesses and individuals to help them understand their capabilities and realise their potential, even when they have a significant health problem.

Can you think of 3 words to describe Cordell Health?

For our clients - innovative.

For their employees  - compassionate.

For our staff - inclusive.

What do you like to do outside work?

I love to spend time outdoors! Whether it be enjoying the countryside, walking next to the canal near our home in Wiltshire or skiing in the Haute Savoie. 

Tell us about who you would most like to meet (dead or alive)?

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Oh, definitely the Dali Lama.  No matter what challenges I am facing I have always found inspiration in his writings and perspective on the world.

What does true leadership mean to you?

Inspiring and enabling others to reach their potential.

What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career in Occupational Health?

Being an Occupational Health professional gives you the potential to make an enormous difference to businesses and their people. In order to be successful, you need to have a good understanding of all the different aspects of the workplace. My advice to someone considering a career would be to find an employer or training organisation, that provides you with many opportunities to learn in as many different situations and businesses as possible.

What 3 things would you take to a desert island with you?

A radio to keep in touch with events in the world. Writing implements to allow me to write the novel that I have always wanted to write and a fine bottle of wine to savour at sunset.

What’s on your wish list for Cordell Health in the next 10 years?  

To develop even more innovative ways to help businesses look after the health and wellbeing of their employees and to deliver a social message which changes the cultural norm of businesses and enables them to value their biggest asset – their people!

Cordell Health leads the agenda in Wellbeing at Work

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Here at Cordell Health, wellbeing at work is always a hot topic of conversation.  We are ever so slightly obsessed with what more can be done to assist productivity for businesses and improve life for their employees.

Last week (6th March 2018), we were excited that one of our Directors, Dr Robin Cordell, in his capacity as a Director of the Council for Work and Health, chaired the national policy session at the Health and Wellbeing @Work conference at the NEC in Birmingham. 

Top level speakers, positioned to make a real difference in the future policy making of our nation's health and work, came together to discuss and share information and strategy on a variety of key issues. Among the many topics were the International and Public Health England’s perspectives towards health and work and the NHS England strategy for improving the health of the NHS workforce.

One of the most interesting presentations was Paul Farmer CBE, Chief Executive of Mind and co-author of the Stevenson/Framer review of mental health and employers. He spoke about the key findings of the Gov.uk thriving at work review which reports that the UK workforce is facing a mental health challenge that is a lot bigger than we thought and that employers are losing billions of pounds because employees are less productive, less effective, or off sick.

The review demonstrates that investing in the support of mental health at work is good for business and productivity. The most important recommendation is that all employers, regardless of size or industry, should adopt six “mental health core standards” that lay basic foundations for an approach to workplace mental health.

These are:

  1. Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan.
  2. Develop mental health awareness among employees.
  3. Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling.
  4. Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work-life balance and opportunities for development.
  5. Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors.
  6. Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.

At Cordell Health, we regularly inform our clients that change starts at the top. It is the empowered, effective and supportive leadership that can drive the motivation for an organisation to implement these ‘six mental health core standards’.

Our view was backed up in the final session of the day in which a panel chaired by Dr Robin Cordell debated the advantages and disadvantages of providing financial incentives for employers to support health at work and to provide incentives for employees to engage in initiatives to support their own health. The panel found that it is the senior leadership of the organisation that set the right culture for health and encourage the behaviours of employers and employees that promote health at work.

Exciting times ahead. We are certainly looking forward to supporting many more businesses as they become more health and wellbeing aware and step onto the road to change.

5 Ways To Build Emotional Resilience In Your Workplace

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The first few months of 2018 have already passed us by, and despite it feeling colder than December, we are slowly but surely rolling towards spring. As the first quarter of the year comes to a close, many businesses will be reviewing their targets and strategising for the year ahead.

There may have been budget cuts, staffing issues, or other unforeseen circumstances that have meant things haven’t gone to plan. How a business responds to this depends largely on its resilience. Its ability to turn a problem into an opportunity, and success in this, largely depends on how emotionally resilient the workforce are.

A person’s emotional resilience refers to their psychological ability to cope with or adapt to, pressure, change and stress. With stress levels on the rise, it’s a word we are hearing more and more commonly in a business environment.

Statistics show that the older generation is among the most resilient we’ve had. They fought in wars, survived tough conditions and lost their livelihoods and people they loved. The younger generation (and us in-between) have never had it so good, and conversely, have lower resilience than ever before. We are more likely to suffer from stress, ill health and are generally more unhappy and unfulfilled than ever before.

Of course, not ALL stress is bad! A healthy amount of it can make us top of our game, challenge us, reward us and give us the edge in a difficult situation. But too much of it, tied in with our lack of resilience, can affect our businesses bottom line with high staff turnover and increased sick leave.  The question is what, as a business, can we do about it?

It turns out, quite a lot!  The Emotional Resilience Toolkit, developed by Business in the Community and funded by the Department Of Health, shows us that a healthy workforce = healthy profits.  Through a 12-step process, a business is able to easily integrate emotional resilience into its health and wellbeing program.  

There is a strong case for businesses to invest in building the emotional resilience of their staff. Not just for the immediate health benefits, but for the vastly improved engagement with their work. The upside is lower absence-related costs and fewer insurance claims, improved morale, performance quality and productivity as well as a boost to their corporate reputation. Research by Gallup (Employee Engagement: The Employee Side of the HumanSigma Equation), revealed that businesses who encouraged staff to engage with their work exhibited ‘lower turnover, higher sales growth, better productivity, better customer loyalty and other manifestations of superior performance.’

Building emotional resilience doesn’t have to be a big budget option, even a simple intervention, incurring little or no additional costs can have a profound effect. Here, with ideas from the Business in the Community Toolkit, we have come up with the top 5 ways employers and employees can work together to build resilience in the workplace:

1. Foster a sense of community

People thrive on friendships and good social interaction. People who have positive relationships in the workplace are more likely to enjoy coming to work and be productive when they get there.

2. Get moving

Physical health is fundamental to our mental health, and creating a pleasant working environment and promoting healthy behaviour can bring many benefits.

3. Build a psychologically healthy environment.

Make the workplace a pleasant and happy environment through recognition, reward, job security and a management style and culture that promotes mutual trust and respect.

4. Promote learning and development

Developing new skills enhances a person’s capabilities and is empowering and helps their sense of wellbeing too.

5. Seek help

Sometimes people require specialist support with physical or mental health issues and may need to be referred on for more support. It could also be that your business needs support tackling some of the issues it faces. For example from:

  • Occupational Health.
  • Employee Assistance Programs.
  • Human resources.
  • Counselling.
  • Physiotherapy.
  • Ask employees to come forward and seek support if they feel they need it.

For support or advice for your business, you can contact Cordell Health.

A copy of the Emotional Resilience Toolkit is available from mentalhealth.org.uk and further information can be found at robertsoncooper.com.

What steps are you going to be taking to build emotional resilience in your workplace today?

6 Ways Occupational Health Can Help Your Business Boom

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The value of occupational health in a business is often judged by a return on investment.  Is the cost per head going to deliver the profit we need? It’s the way most businesses need to think in order to survive. Yet, a true picture of success does not always lie purely in the financial benefit, but also in the far broader and deeper reaching value (culturally, socially, emotionally) that a good occupational health program can provide.

There’s no denying that employee health and wellbeing contribute to successful business performance.  When supported by occupational health to encompass the work environment, culture and interpersonal relationships, the resulting productivity really can make a business boom.

There is no ‘one size fits all’. Every company has its own culture and challenges and it takes analysis and comprehensive risk assessment to design a bespoke service for maximum effect. Here we have identified the 6 most common issues faced by many businesses and identified how the implementation of occupational health service might help.

1. Reduce Sickness Absence

This is one of the most common issues and with sickness absence estimated to cost UK businesses £28.8 billion each year (PWC Research. The Rising Cost of Absence 2013. CBI. London. 2013.) it’s no wonder!  Work-related ill health and health problems related to unhealthy lifestyle respond well to a specific needs and risks assessment that improves employees’ general health and performance at work. The benefit is both direct and indirect with significantly reduced sick leave and improved performance/ productivity at work.

It might mean implementing staff health assessments, optional immunisation programs or targeting a specific training issue (such as lifting techniques). Also, welfare counselling or an overall health and well-being drive to improve employee sleep health, diet and exercise regimes.

2. Reduce Presenteeism

Presenteeism is when employees are at work but with reduced levels of productivity. It might be that they have come into work when they are unwell/ overtired/ suffering from a mental health issue or as a symptom of the workplace culture. Whilst it is unlikely to be completely avoidable, by evaluating the top preventable causes of productivity loss, cultural or individual changes can be implemented that improve productivity as well as overall wellbeing.

3. Health and Safety

Occupational health can significantly contribute to the overall health and safety systems in an organization. to ensuring compliance with regulations/ policy for health and safety.  Research by the Health and Safety Executive has shown that a sense of ‘physical security’ including safe working practices, adequacy of equipment and pleasantness of work environment is important for employees. Health and safety interventions are often focused on the prevention of injury and may not consider the health benefits or impact of any intervention.   Working with occupational health can help ensure that interventions leverage health benefits as well as meet safety requirements. Ultimately investment in prevention is always a better for a business’ reputation, as well as for financial and cultural benefit.

4. Reduce Employment Costs

Employment costs are high and improved wellbeing and good occupational health support can help develop a supportive work culture, which retains existing employees and attracts talented employees to the business.

Research (Aviva. The Sixth Health of the Workplace Report) shows that when looking for work employees were more likely to choose an employer who took health and wellbeing seriously (66%) and felt they would have a duty to work harder because of it (43%). In addition, occupational health can reduce employment costs through support with early return to work programs for employees who are sick absent and appropriate adjustments for those who have a disability.

5. Encourage Diversity

A diverse workforce is stronger and more creative, the more elements of society it represents, the more views and resources it has to draw on and the better the business’ competitive edge. Not only that, but disabled people provide a loyal and committed workforce.  Occupational health can add value by offering support through disability awareness training, educating employers, on the benefits of diversity and the positive impact it can deliver and how workplace adjustments can support those with a disability in work.

6.  Management Training

Line managers are the gatekeepers to employees’ happiness or stress and by supporting, educating and training them in how to manage sickness absence appropriately, business will often see productivity boom.

Training might include Mental Health First Aid, understanding the role of occupational health in supporting employees with long-term health problems and understanding how much the workplace can have a negative or positive impact on the long-term health and wellbeing of employees.  Improving communication, adjusting roles and appraising employees to encourage performance may have a massive effect on positive mental health, employee wellbeing, job satisfaction.  Ultimately this can have a knock-on effect on improved performance and a reduction in sickness and presenteeism rates.

To find out more about occupational health and wellbeing in the workplace contact Cordell Health or have a look at the wellbeing section of the Business in the Community website.

Why looking after employees sleep health is good for business

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Last night I had a rare, but welcome, night of great sleep. I maxed out the full 8 hours and woke up feeling full of beans ready to kick start the day. I have probably achieved more in 4 hours this morning than I achieve in a whole day when I’m not properly rested.

The amount of sleep our nation gets has been in decline over a number of years, according to the NHS, 1 in 3 people suffer from Insomnia. There are a million reasons we’re all struggling to sleep, from technology and our inability to switch off, to the increasingly blurred lines between work and home life too.

It’s those increasingly blurred lines that have got the attention of the Government and with research by RAND Europe revealing that the cost of lost sleep to the UK is estimated at £40 billion a year, they are encouraging businesses to take more notice.

Whether or not the problem causing the lack of sleep comes from the workplace, the impact on an individuals ability to perform and the impact on the business remains the same. For employees to achieve their potential and make our businesses stronger, we need to understand that sleep is as important as good diet and exercise, and without enough of it, we simply do not do our best.  

Line managers play an important role. The impact of sleep deprivation often occurs over a long period of time, which means that employees often don’t notice they’re missing out. The first challenge is for line managers to learn to recognise the symptoms of sleep deprivation. Identified here by the Public Health England Sleep and Recovery Toolkit.

  • Decreased communication
  • Performance deterioration
  • Poor concentration/ easily distracted
  • Poor cognitive assimilation and memory
  • Poor mood/ inappropriate behaviour
  • Greater risk-taking behaviour
  • Inability to make necessary adjustments
  • Increased intake of caffeine/ energy drinks
  • Increased sickness/ sickness absence.

The next step is to take action and consider if the time is right to review the organisations’ whole approach to health and wellbeing so that it includes sleep.  The advice and support of a specialist occupational health service such as Cordell Health can help as they will monitor and assess workers health, safety and performance across the whole company. They will also be able to suggest and help implement positive changes that will result in more engaged, healthy and productive employees.  This will help those already affected and importantly put preventative measures and cultural changes in place.

Starting the conversation about lack of sleep with employees can be challenging as it is such a personal issue and can be hard to discuss. The self-assessment tools at Sleepio and NHS Choices are a great first step to opening the lines of communication and offer some good advice.

There are 8 recommendations identified by Public Health England to help employees recuperate:

  • Help employees to understand the impact of excessive screen time on their mental wellbeing, work/life balance and sleep
  • Encourage them to have screen breaks including a break from social media and news channels throughout the day.
  • Hydration aids recovery, so make drinking water available throughout the workplace.
  • Encourage exposure to natural light, sunshine helps the body recover natural rhythms disrupted by poor sleep or lack of sleep.
  • Walking meetings, outside lunches and breaks from work that involves stepping out of the workplace can all be promoted.
  • Ensure staff have a quiet space away from their desks to eat lunch and consider providing spaces for staff to relax during the working day or night.
  • Break out spaces, sofa areas and relaxation pods are used by some employers to promote rest and recovery.
  • Ensure staff take their full holiday entitlement. Time off work is not ‘nice to have’ but an essential element of work/life balance.

As well as this, there are some brilliant apps that employees can be encouraged to download that will help them get a better understanding of their sleep patterns and the triggers involved. These will not only help promote self-care but can be followed up with an open door policy in the workplace and support with signposting to where employees can get help if they need it.

  • SleepBot uses a motion tracker in a smartphone to monitor movement and can keep track of sleep cycles and record sound levels. There are detailed tables that break down your sleep history by date etc. It also has a nice little section where you can make a note of your mood or something that disturbed you (noise or a thought) in the night. 
  • The iMoodJournal tracks mood, sleep, medication and energy levels through the phone.
  • There is a sleep tracker within the clock function of the iPhone (ios10) that can monitor how you sleep as well as be set to remind you when it’s time to go to bed and gently wake you at the optimum time in the morning.
  • Fitbit can monitor sleep as well as encourage fitness. It provides easy to read graphics that show sleep cycles and restless period through the night.

Hopefully, this will help you to think about the importance of reviewing employees sleep health and wellbeing in your workplace. Have you noticed any of the warning signs of in your team? How do you think you will approach it with them?

Reducing Influenza in the Work Place

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By the end of 14 January 2018, there were 198 new admissions to ICU/HDU with confirmed influenza with GP consultations for influenza-like illnesses increased further with the highest rates in the 45-64 years age group

We’re talking flu, not a cough or a cold but influenza, and even if you are healthy it can leave you aching and sweating and bed ridden for over a week.  In older people, younger children and people with underlying health problems, complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia can be severe and in some cases fatal.  

You can catch it from a surface where the virus has been deposited or from a sneeze or a cough that can spread germs up to 6 feet away and survive in the air for several hours! 

Worse still, 70% of people show no symptoms until after it has spread, meaning it can unwittingly spread through our family, community or workplace, leaving weaker or more vulnerable people at risk.  Figures show that it hits about 20% of the population and it mutates into a different strain every year, so we can never get immunity from it no matter how fit and healthy we are, or how many times we’ve had it before. 

In the workplace, employers have a duty of care to their employees and health and wellbeing are of ever-increasing importance. Running a promotion programme to reduce the impact of influenza including a vaccination program for employees ticks a lot of boxes and goes a long way to demonstrate that the business has their best interests at heart.

It’s not just about the bottom line, for which flu shows no regard, but about engaging employees and protecting the wider society too (over the last few years the flu vaccines have not provided good protection for the over 65’s, highlighting a greater importance than ever to vaccinate other age groups to reduce risk for the elderly).

Even if you haven’t had an opportunity to have an influenza vaccine this year, there are other means by which you can reduce the risk of flu spreading in the workplace.  Here are our top tips for a flu safe workplace!

  • Teach staff good hygiene practices including ‘cough etiquette’ and hand washing techniques
  • Keep the workplace clean
  • Encourage staff NOT to come into work if they are feeling unwell
  • Monitor and assess any sick leave throughout the year so you can plan and strategise well ahead

If your business has been hit hard with influenza this year, you may wish to work with an occupational health professional such as Cordell Health, to discuss your businesses needs and plan a vaccination program as soon as the newest one is available for 2018.

Of course, there is no obligation for employees to take you up on the offer, even if you provide it, nor can it provide 100% protection.  But in large workforces of 500+ people, which show the highest rates of illness,  the likelihood of an epidemic spreading quickly is increased and the cost to the business significantly more dramatic.

With this in mind, is it a cost that businesses can afford NOT to budget? Every year, sick leave costs business an average of approximately £554 per person, and with coughs and colds accounting for nearly a quarter of that, one is left wondering how much could have been prevented.

Nikki Cordell, Managing Director and Consultant Occupational Physician at Cordell Health, advises that ‘‘the more measuring and monitoring of sickness absence that is done throughout the year, the better equipped you are to implement strategies to reduce absence levels and inform an evidence-based health promotion programme.  For many businesses, this will include planning ahead to run a flu vaccination program in October / November before the inevitable flu epidemic of the next winter season hits.’

How has your workplace been affected by the flu this year? Have other employees had to share the workload when people have been off sick or have you been lucky enough to be part of a vaccination program that has had a beneficial effect?

For further information please see the link to Flu and flu vaccines: Expert Interview

The value of Occupational Health

What is Occupational Health? 

Occupational Health covers all aspects of the health of employees in the workplace. It can be preventative, supportive or reactive depending on the needs of the employee and the employer.

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Occupational health professionals come from a number of different healthcare backgrounds including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists and technicians. They can each provide specialist expertise, depending on their background and qualifications, to assist a business in looking after the health of its staff.

How can Occupational Health add value to my business?

By law, employers have a duty of care to make sure employees are looked after at work. Occupational Health can assist with this in a number of ways from assessing people’s fitness for safety critical roles, providing advice and screening for health surveillance, educating employees and most importantly, timely advice on supporting people with health problems in work or back to work.

The way people work and are managed at work can have a big effect on their health. The Government is encouraging employers to create healthy workplaces and help manage the cost to the economy of work-related ill health, which is currently estimated at £100bn a year.  Healthy, happy employees are more productive and tend to stay with their employer for longer, reducing the hidden costs of presenteeism and staff turnover.

Which side is Occupational Health on – the employer who pays the bills or the employee?

The answer to this is neither. A good occupational health professional will be objective and spend time with both the business and the employee.  They will need to understand the business’ needs, the constraints of the role and any concerns raised.

The employee will also have a confidential medical or consultation with the occupational health professional, and make sure they fully understand the situation based on the employees' difficulties or needs.

Must a business take the advice of an occupational health professional?

The business should review the advice and consider what is best for the business and the individual. If the recommendations are difficult to implement or they feel are not in the organisations’ best interest, they should take some time to discuss this with the occupational health professional.

They don’t have to follow the advice given and are free to consider other sources of information and have more contact with the employee if necessary.

Money should never be a barrier to implementing changes suggested by Occupational Health. The Government offers grants through its Access To Work scheme, to provide funds to help employers make reasonable adjustments to support employees with medical issues stay in work or get back to work.

Why can’t the business just rely on a fit note or letter from a GP?

Occupational Health is a specialist area of medicine that takes years of training and practise, in the same way, that a doctor might specialise in Surgery or Dentistry, they might also specialise in Occupational Medicine. As a specialist, they have extensive knowledge about different health conditions and their impact on work. This is something that a GP or a hospital doctor might know very little about and may find it difficult to understand the individual’s health problems from a work perspective.  

Interested in more information?

If you want to know more about the value of Occupational Health for the business please contact Kathryn at Cordell Health for a chat or download Occupational health: the value proposition from the society of Occupational Medicine here.

5 ways to find ‘Time to Talk’ in your business

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It’s not often we arrive at work to be told that today it’s ‘time to talk’! But today, Thursday 1st Feb 2018, we’re doing exactly that and showing our support for 'Time to Talk Day'.  Brought about by Time to Change, to encourage everyone to have a conversation about mental health … no matter who they are!  

Mental health is an issue that no organisation can afford to ignore with 1 in 4 British workers being affected by conditions like anxiety, depression and stress every year.  It is also the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, costing an average of £1,035 per employee per year (Time to Change).

Many who are struggling with their mental health are made to feel isolated, worthless and ashamed.  Very often, it is left to the person who is struggling to find the strength to open up and talk about their illness, as those around them don’t know how to start those difficult conversations and are afraid to say the wrong thing. Time to Talk Day is a chance for all of us to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives.

There is a strong business case for tackling the stigma associated with mental illness and even small changes can have a positive impact. Sickness absence rates are reduced, presenteeism levels drop and staff wellbeing, productivity, and retention improve all round if employees feel appropriately supported. Businesses need to know what to say, when to say it and most importantly how it needs to be said.

There has never been a better time to take those first steps and start to make change happen. We’ve put together 5 ways that any business, no matter how big or small, can step up and improve their culture and attitude to mental health in the workplace today.

  1. Work with an independent occupational health organisation that can assess your businesses specific needs for mental health and wellbeing and work with you to put strategies in place. This might include mental resilience training to help prevent mental illness in the first place or training dedicated members of staff to help reduce stress or deal with Mental Health First Aid.
  2. Sign up for the  Time to Change Employer Pledge and develop an action plan to get your employees talking appropriately and supportively about mental health. This could include in-house awareness projects or training for employees and line managers to help understand mental health issues and how to handle those difficult conversations about mental illness within their teams.
  3. Create an in-house mental health resource by choosing one or more members of the team to become dedicated Mental Health First Aiders. Employees will have a dedicated member of staff who they know they can talk to, who has been trained to listen and signpost where to get help.
  4. Review your company’s health benefits, employee assistance program and support structures. Make sure there is provision for confidential support and that your employees know about it. Get senior management on board and lead by example, creating a culturally supportive workplace.
  5. Appropriate communication - find time to talk to colleagues and start a conversation by simply asking if everything’s ok? A quiet private spot away from the office works well, listen without judgement and encourage others to do the same when you notice someone may need a little support.

How is your office finding Time to Talk?  Have you pledged to make any changes to your workplace today?

Management makeover to improve stress at work.

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Managers have long since had a significant impact on employee well-being and engagement with work. Some are natural born leaders who know and understand their teams and magically seem to get the best out of them.  Others operate in high-stress environments and a maelstrom of chaos in the team.

Yet workplace stress and depression figures are through the roof. Back in 2009, the World Health Organisation predicted that by 2020 depression would be the second most important cause of disability in the world. By  2017, it was already the no.1 cause of disability in the world.

Stress at work that leads to long-term absence, has more than doubled since the 1990s, with an estimated 500,000 suffering from work-related stress in the UK. The chances are that someone in your office is struggling with a mental health issue right now.

Trouble is, dealing with those difficult conversations is not a skill that comes naturally to all of us and the ability of the line manager to handle it in a ‘soft’ way, isn’t something that can be learnt overnight. The bitc.org.uk ‘Engagement and Wellbeing’ report states that only a third of employees received any support to manage workplace stress and that managerial trust is falling, with only 40% of employees believing their bosses acted with integrity. It seems that more managers than not find it easier to ignore those difficult conversations and do nothing at all.

The good news is that there is a proven link between positive manager behaviour and booming business.  Evidence shows that good workplaces have higher productivity, greater employee retention and improved customer satisfaction. Furthermore, a three-year study (Towers Watson 2010) showed that operating margins improved by 4% in organisations with high employee engagement. That’s a significant financial uplift and the onus is on managers to enable a cultural shift that stops sweeping employees’ problems under the office carpet and normalises caring behaviour in the workplace. Employees need to believe that coming to a line manager with a problem isn’t going to mean they’re up for the next round of redundancies or could lose their job.

Recognising the benefits from training to improve your ability to understand issues, proactively solve problems and motivate your team is one of the first steps to changing the culture in your workplace. Even if you’re uncomfortable with those potentially difficult conversations, you can change your outlook and adopt positive traits to make a significant impact on the stress levels of your team.

There are 15 managerial behaviours, identified by the CIPD that can directly impact on employees’ stress at work in a positive way.

  1. Be decisive… do what you say
  2. Avoid speaking about team members behind their backs
  3. Maintain a predictable and even mood
  4. Plan work to realistic and achievable deadlines
  5. Act positively on any constructive criticism given to you
  6. Avoid passing your stress onto employees
  7. Plan ahead to avoid placing short-term demands on employees
  8. Give more positive than negative feedback
  9. Be a problem solver rather than leaving problems for others
  10. Help your team gain better work-life balance
  11. Give clear direction and ensure employees understand their role in delivering outputs
  12. Be open to alternative paths
  13. Resolve issues rather than opting to keep the peace
  14. Address complaints of bullying
  15. Check in with employees to make sure they are ok

If you struggle with any of the above it may be that you’ll benefit from some specific management training to take your team more happily and productively through the year ahead. You could call in help from a company like Cordell Health, that is experienced in helping you help your workforce!

Creating a positive workplace through culture, environment and communication.

This week, mental health has been back in the headlines with the announcement of ‘Blue Monday’, coined as the ‘most depressing day of the year’, by Psychologist Cliff Arnoll back in 2004.

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Whether there is a scientifically proven ‘worse day’, for people actually suffering from a mental health issue remains to be seen. Regardless, Blue Monday helps us all by bringing the conversation about mental health into the forefront of our minds, challenging us to think about it and breaking down more of the barriers and stigma attached.

This can only be a good thing, and at Cordell Health this week we have been thinking all about how the mental health of a team can be influenced by subtle changes and positive reinforcement in the workplace. The list could be endless but we’ve narrowed it down to three main areas; Culture, Environment and Communication. See the top tips listed below!

Culture

Autonomy - giving staff the freedom to manage their own time. This might include work from home or flexible hours to fit around family responsibilities.

Support - allowing staff office time to get ‘life admin’ done, rewards for healthy lifestyle or walking challenges, supporting employees to achieve a good work-life balance.

Education - employees continually furnished with new skills are more engaged, motivated and loyal. Skills don’t even have to be work related to have a positive effect. Research has shown that gaining new personal skills reduces stress and improves wellbeing as well as productivity in the workplace.

Perks - Statistics show that employees often value perks more than pay rises, and better still, they don’t always have to cost the company money! They might include benefits such as allowing time off to work for charitable causes, use of the company car or a free day off on your birthday!

Environment

Community - not every office space is oversized and dowsed in natural light, but the way in which you use a working space has a huge impact on the wellness and productivity of a team. The sense of community that bonds a team together with a shared purpose and work ethic comes from a flexible zoned space. No matter how small these areas are, the aim is to try and create 3 zones; an open plan zone for shared creativity, a quiet zone for concentrating and a comfy social zone for relaxation when people need to step away from their desks.

Communication

Body Language - there’s a million variations of the way in which we use our bodies to communicate the most of subtle of things. But this is definitely an area worth thinking about; we all know there’s nothing worse than trying to have a conversation with someone whilst they’re checking their emails or sitting fidgeting with arms firmly folded. Generally, in a meeting or a one to one situation you’ll be aiming to show a supportive, positive and communicative stance. This would mean (phones and emails off) sitting with legs and arms uncrossed, head tilted forward and body slightly leaning forward. Eye contact is important but not in a staring way!

Language - The way in which we listen and use our words is full of nuances and we should practice both in equal measure! Use the ‘appreciate, ask and acknowledge’ strategy, getting feedback along the way, asking for opinions and appreciating and acknowledging work well done. Language should be polite, kind and stress positive actions and positive consequences. Focus on what can be done rather than what cannot, by using words such as ‘can’, ‘will’ or ‘able to’.  Suggest alternative solutions and offer people choices. Aim to help others where you can, and be bureaucratic rather than use a tone of blame or put people on the spot.

What do you feel works well or presents challenges in your workplace?

How to care for the mental health of a colleague

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January is a tough month. After all the fun and spending of December, many of us are feeling those New Year blues. The nights draw in, the bank balance is low and we’re probably not even allowing ourselves a cheery slice of chocolate cake.

Of course, this will reflect how we act and operate in the workplace and with reports of breakdowns and depression at an all-time high, we need to be more vigilant than ever that we are taking good care of ourselves and keeping an eye out for our colleagues’ well-being too.

Many employers are ahead of the curve and have support structures in place for employees that are struggling. Yet for those that don’t, how do we tell if a colleague is suffering from a mental health issue and what do we do about it?

How do you know if a colleague is struggling?

Any major life event can trigger stress, but how we react to those stressors is individual to each and every one of us.

Where one may find Christmas so stressful they cannot function, another will excel with the pressure and delight in the challenge it brings. Similarly with a house move, a speeding ticket or a time-pressured project at work. The worst nightmare for one is the making of another.

Without being too ‘big brother’ about it, if you want to support your colleagues, you need to get to know them inside and out. Establishing a behavioural baseline and recognising how they deal with different stresses can, at the very least, help you acknowledge when they might be in need of some extra support or care.

You can never make assumptions that there is a problem, but if you notice any of these 5 warning signs are present for more than a week or two, it may be significant enough to at least start a conversation or ask if they’re ok. 

5 Mental Health Warning Signs:

  • Changes in behaviour, mood or how they interact with colleagues
  • Changes in their work output, motivation levels and focus. Often frequent short-term absence is a warning sign.
  • Struggling to make decisions, get organised and find solutions to problems
  • Appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn and losing interest in activities and tasks they previously enjoyed
  • Changes in eating habits, appetite and increased smoking and drinking.

Now you’ve recognised the signswhat do you do about it?

  • Start a conversation. A one to one away from the office with complete privacy is a good place to start. 
  • Listen without judgment. Let the person talk without trying to push the conversation. Let there be gaps in the discussion if necessary. Let the person you’re worried about set the pace, but be willing to go at his/her speed. Offer emotional support, understanding, patience and encouragement.
  • No means no. Just because you’re ready to talk it doesn’t mean they will be. If they don’t open up, remind them that you are there for them if they want to come back to you.  A gentle ‘is everything ok?’ at a later date will act as a reminder.
  • Be supportive. Statements like  “What can I do to help?” or “Is there anything I can do?” are supportive and not too pushy. Try to show that you understand that depression is a health condition, not a personal flaw or weakness and that it usually gets better with the right management.
  • Talk about the things that used to excite them; invite your colleague to lunch or other activities. Keep trying if he or she declines, but don't push him or her to take on too much too soon.
  • Familiarise yourself with your company’s health benefits. There could be CONFIDENTIAL help and support available that you could point your colleague towards.

The overriding take out from all of these tips is that it’s better to do something than nothing. We should all encourage a duty of care in the workplace and by taking the first steps to help a colleague, you can make a positive difference to the outcome of their experience with a mental health issue. We all owe it to each other.

Has a colleague or a line manager supported you with a mental health issue at work? How did it feel when they first acknowledged that you might be in need of some support

New Years resolutions for business: 10 changes to get the most out of your team

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As we step joyfully into 2018, full of promise and hope for the year ahead, many of us are thinking about the things we’d like to improve about our lives. Often they are personal (eat less, exercise more and sleep A LOT, being mine), and sometimes they are changes that will improve other people’s lives.

2017 saw figures for stress related issues at work at an all time high with the Health and Safety Executive reporting that over 526,000 new workers suffered from stress, depression or anxiety. You might not be running your own business or enterprise but if you’re a line manager you have a chance to make a massive difference to the health and wellbeing of your colleagues in the year ahead. A few simple resolutions for 2018 may help you deliver a healthier and more productive workplace for your organisation.

So, with no further ado, here we give you some inspiration with our New Years resolutions for managers, to help you get the most out of your team. Follow even just one or two of these and YOU will be rewarded with a more productive team as well as an improvement to your working life every day.

1.    Lead by example. Be the kind of manager that celebrates productivity during the working day (rather than after hours), and rewards employees for outputs achieved rather than time spent in the office. You hold the key to the office culture.

2.    Treat people right. Be fair, be kind, and be consistent in your directions and creative in your solutions. Sometimes a little bit of (managerial) flexibility can go a long way.

3.    Listen. Carefully. Take onboard feedback and act positively.

4.    Listen some more. Listen to what is not being said and then think carefully. It’s often what is not being said that sets the alarm bells ringing, and it could be that someone in your team is in need of some support and some Mental Health First Aid.

5.    Be understanding. Your employees’ problems may not be coming from the office, sometimes life just gets in the way. With a bit of understanding and creative thinking you can give them the space and flexibility to heal themselves, and they’ll be back on form much quicker than if you just hope the problem will just go away.

6.    Invest in health & wellbeing. Encourage your team to move their bodies for at least 30 - 60 minutes a day. A walk, a workout in the gym or yoga class, …anything they can manage during the day. They will feel less tired and with those endorphins flowing they’ll be happier and more focused at work.

7.    Invest in education. An inspired and up-skilled team is good for business. Education does not have to be just for the job either; wellbeing education to encourage healthy sleeping, drinking and eating habits can also improve productivity, positivity and loyalty.

8.    Open your door. Encourage your team to come to you without judgment or fear for any kind of problem, take them seriously, address their complaints or just listen to find out what they need and put support in place.

9.    Deal with your stress. Be predictable, calm, positive and realistic. If you’re stressed, practice what you preach, take a walk, breathe and talk to YOUR line manager!

10. Don’t give up! Changing habits or management style isn’t easy. Ride the setbacks and stick at it. Forgive your failures, reward your successes, and take it day by day.

We’d love to hear what your businesses healthy objectives are for 2018? Are they resolutions that you think you can keep?

The secret to SLEEP HEALTH: Our lack of sleep has alarm bells ringing

In this blog, we explore why sleep is so hard to come by and suggest a remedy for a mood-boosting overhaul of your healthy sleep habits!

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With workplace stress on the rise and the ever-present smartphone by the side of the bed, it’s no wonder we are getting a disrupted night’s sleep. Living in our fast-paced, non-stop, 24-hour, working-chatting-shopping-thinking world….we can’t switch off. We are tired, burning out and exhausted. The effect runs much deeper than just needing a stronger coffee on the way to work. In fact, scientists at research organisation Rand have predicted that the effect of sleep deprivation on productivity and health could be costing the British economy up to $50 billion each year.

We think we’re working harder, faster and more productively but it turns out we’re doing the exact opposite as our constant tiredness can cause a lack of motivation, low immunity and negative mood. Company profitability can be affected by the consequential hike in staff turnover, more sick days and an unproductive environment in the workplace, especially in those that require teamwork and creative thinking.

A massive 84% of respondents surveyed by Hult International Business School said they were more irritable after a bad night’s sleep and over half consequently admitted feeling more stressed, anxious and frustrated. The 20-34 age group revealed that 27% felt exhausted every day and were less likely to be able to focus and complete tasks than any other age group.

“It is common for managers and colleagues to look at a lack of focus or motivation, irritability, and bad decision making as being caused by poor training, organisational politics or the work environment. The answer could be much simpler – a lack of sleep.”

From The Wake-up Call: The importance of sleep in organisational life

Of course, not all stress comes from the workplace but three-quarters of workers surveyed by CV-Library cited workplace stress as the main cause of their disrupted sleep. That figure that is likely to rise as you climb the career ladder; more responsibility = more money = more stress = less sleep!

Why can’t we just switch off the lights, close our eyes and go to sleep?

The answer is cortisol, the ‘fight-or-flight’ hormone that gushes into our bodies with adrenaline when we need to be at the top of our game. Normally it peaks in the morning and gradually reduces throughout the day to a low enough level by bedtime for us to relax and get to sleep. In times of stress, however, this same superpower-boosting friend can quickly turn into a 24-hour foe that you can’t switch off.

The buzz stays with you all time. Stuck in a traffic jam? Rushing for a deadline at work? Late to pick up the kids? Worrying about money? The result is often a nervous feeling in our stomach, headache, lack of focus - and wishing there were more hours in the day!

Cortisol can cause a whole host of problems and chief among them is a negative effect on sleep. If you’re lucky enough to be able to nod off, the chances are you’ll wake up during the night and won’t be able to get off again. You’ll likely be tired, craving sugary foods and caffeine and probably in a bad mood. And the cycle starts again……

So, how do we look after our sleep? For starters, we need to take sleep seriously and think about the stress points in our lives. We should all be aiming for a solid 7-8 hours a night. It’s not just something that happens naturally at the end of the day; we need to prioritise it, plan it and prepare for it, to ensure we get those all-important hours in.

SLEEP HEALTH is something all managers and teams can take an active role in and with the New Year on the horizon, now is the perfect time to overhaul our attitudes to those all-important zzzzz's.

  • Schedule sleep so your body develops a good circadian rhythm (its own internal sleep clock)
  • Leave alcohol, caffeine and nicotine well alone
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat healthily
  • Put technology away – at least 30 minutes before bed!
  • Help staff eat and live healthily maybe provide healthy fruit snacks and fresh water throughout the day
  • Evaluate how your company rewards work behaviour ie, answering emails during evenings and weekends
  • Actively encourage exercise during the working day
  • Let staff work flexible hours so individuals can work when they’re at their most productive
  • Teach staff to time-manage efficiently and go home on time
  • Harness a culture of wellness and support

We all have those moments when our head droops at our desk but do you think you’re getting enough sleep? Would be great to know what you think about sleep and how it affects your working day?

HELP, I’m distracted! Why presenteeism is a problem, not just at Christmas…

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I sat at my desk this morning and started writing a light-hearted festive blog about workplace productivity in the Christmas season. We’re all partying, eating and drinking, and doing the bare minimum at our desks. I’d only got two paragraphs in, by which time I’d had a call from a friend, looked at some shoes on sale, Google-mapped a venue for a meeting on Friday, paid for a school trip and ordered a new dog bed.  I was certainly not being productive! I was present but absent, and sadly it was nothing to do with having gone out and had a good time.

It occurred to me that this is presenteeism, and it’s a problem that is clearly NOT just something that happens at this time of year!

Presenteeism used to specifically refer to employee productivity that was lessened by coming to work when they were sick and should probably have been at home in bed.  More and more it’s being used to describe the way in which we work and how our productivity is challenged by the way in which we live. We face constant distractions. We can barely have a face-to-face conversation without beeping or buzzing and we struggle to focus even when we’re on our own. We tap or swipe our phone screens an average of 2,617 times a day!  And the constant alerts from watches or emails remind us there’s a bargain to be had or that someone needs something from us. It’s an adrenalin-fuelled pastime that is hard to ignore and is making us stressed and unproductive.

The British Heart Foundation suggests that presenteeism due to stress and issues with mental health could well be costing the UK economy £15.1bn a year and it’s obvious that technology plays a large part in it.

BUT what to do with this tide of technology? You can’t get an entire workforce to turn off their phones, emails and alerts; we’re all adults after all!

I was reminded of a story I heard from someone that worked in a careers office (in the dark ages before mobile phones). They had a phone system that would call you at 10:30am to remind you to stop and take a break. Everyone would put down their pens, walk away from their desks and phones and head to the staff room where they had a tea rota. They’d all have a drink and a chat and after 20 minutes or so head back to their desks, focused and refreshed.

It’s old-fashioned I know, but there’s something wholesome and nourishing about legitimising ‘switching off’ and taking a break! We didn’t have access to work 24 hours a day back then, but I bet they were more productive and happier overall.

Riding the tech wave requires organisations to culturally shift, so that they can thrive on the benefits of technology but care about their employee’s mental health and wellbeing too.

With that in mind (and phone turned off), here are some thoughts for diminishing your company’s tech-related presenteeism in 2018!

1.    Be open. Create a culture in which employees have a safe place to share worries with colleagues or line managers. It might not be work related but if they feel supported they are more likely to perform their best

2.    Organise a review of your workplace policies and help staff understand their individual working style. By opening up the conversation about distractions and presenteeism you will be able to explore with them how to maximise their most productive times of day. This could include different working hours or a period in the day when they acknowledge they would benefit from putting their phones away.

3.    Build a working environment that celebrates a good work/ life balance, where taking work home and answering emails in the evenings is not encouraged.

4.    Time management training with trained staff on how to schedule their day so that there’s a time set aside for social media, prioritising emails or booking a holiday! No business expects employees to have their head down eight hours a day but minimising the distraction or saving it for less-focused hours will maximise output in the day.

5.    Encourage a healthy balanced lifestyle by offering gym memberships, a team sport or a group walk at lunchtimes. Spread awareness on the importance of getting quality sleep, and encourage staff to communicate with their line manager if it’s becoming a problem. Supply fruit and plenty of water.

6.    If you are worried about your teams stress you may need some Mental Health First Aid!

I could definitely benefit from thinking about my productive times of day and making sure I maximise them whilst using the less productive times to get my personal admin and emails done – guilt free!

 Would be great to know what you think? Is there one change you could make in the New Year?

Disability Awareness Q & A

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Following on from our blog last week we thought we’d share the top 12 Q&A’s we come across in our Disability Awareness Training.

1. Do I shake hands? Absolutely. Offer your hand in the same way you would to anyone and then confidently shake whatever is offered to you, whether it’s an artificial limb or a partial hand. If they are unable to raise either hand you might gently touch their arm as a friendly greeting.

2. How do I refer to their disability? Focus on the individual rather than their disability. They are first and foremost a person and the disability is something they have. Whilst you might be trying to show empathy in describing someone as ‘suffering from’ or ‘confined to’, it can sound negative and is best avoided. 

3. What if I need to ask them about how their disability would affect their role at work?  The best way to approach this is to ask them how they would go about performing the functions of the job. It is a question you would need to ask everyone you interviewed able-bodied or not! An employer is expected to make reasonable adjustments to enable someone with a disability do the job and it would be acceptable to ask in an interview what sort of adjustments they might need. Government funding is available to advise and financially support adjustments in the workplace.

4. Should I offer to help? Of course, always offer to help but wait until the offer is accepted and then follow their instructions as to what kind of help they need.

5. What do I do if I see someone struggling with their wheelchair? Offer to help but never touch, move or play with someone’s wheelchair (or any assistive equipment) without their permission. It is part of the space that belongs to that person.

6. How do I talk to a deaf person? Don’t shout…it distorts sound produced through a hearing aid and makes lip reading really hard. DO Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly and naturally so they have the opportunity to lip read if they are able.

7. Where do I look if I’m talking to a blind person? Look directly at the person you are talking to, even if they have someone with them. Don’t assume they can’t see anything. Always introduce yourself and tell them who else is in the room, it’s fine to ask if they need help. They may ask you to turn the lights on, guide them somewhere or describe where things are in the room so they can find their own way around.

8. How do I talk to someone in a wheelchair? If you’re talking for more than a few minutes it’s polite to get down to their eye level, either squat or pull up a chair.

9. What if I’m trying to help but it comes across as discrimination? If you treat a disabled person the same as anyone else this should not happen but if you’re unsure look up the law.

10. Is it ok to say someone is handicapped? This is no longer considered politically correct as it has such negative connotations. It implies that they are at a disadvantage. Stick to referring directly to the person (as you would with an able-bodied person), and if it’s relevant, the disability that they have.

11. What if an employee who is disabled does something wrong? All employees should be treated fairly and receive constructive feedback when it’s needed.  Your expectations should be the same and as long as the right support is in place for the person with a disability there is no reason why you shouldn’t have exactly the same expectations of them. An employee with a disability will want to do just as good a job and have access to just as challenging projects and promotions as an employee without a disability.

12. I’m just so worried that I might say something wrong and offend someone! Relax! There is no need to get bogged down with being so politically correct or super sensitive to the right and wrong that you get your words in a muddle. If you say something you realise isn’t right, apologise and carry on, or ask the person whom you are talking to what they would prefer you said.  Don’t be patronizing, use your normal voice and speak in your usual way!

If you relate to any of these questions it could be that you would benefit from some disability awareness training. You can get advice from www.gov.uk or contact Cordell Health for workplace training days.

Got any questions you’d like to ask about disability etiquette or concerns about interviewing or employing someone with a disability? Let us know…we’d be happy to share some more advice.

Celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Sunday 3rd December was International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Brought about by the United Nations to promote an understanding of disability issues and to spread awareness of the many gains from the ‘full integration of persons with disabilities’ in every aspect of life.

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It’s 2017, and we still need reminding that we should be integrating people with disabilities into our everyday life including the workplace! What era are we living in? In the same way that it’s hard to imagine that women once didn’t have the right to vote, we will undoubtedly look back in disbelief that in 2017 there are still barriers in engaging with or employing people with disabilities, because of the perceived challenges?

Yet it’s true. We DO need reminding. Gov.uk reports that less than half disabled people who would like to work are in employment, not because they are unable to but because they are unable to find work. Evidence shows a diverse and inclusive workforce is good for business but achieving it still requires action! It’s not going to happen on its own. Employers and line managers need to be on board. They are the gatekeepers and as far as disabled people are concerned, access to work can be a real challenge.  

It’s not that they don’t have the skills, far from it, but there is a focus by non-disabled people on what they CAN’T do, rather than what they CAN do.  

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Unlocking the barriers takes time and the gatekeepers are the ones who can bridge this unemployment gap and lead the ‘charge for change’ in their own workplace.  Education is key; we need to be immersed in disability awareness from every angle.  Programs, such as the BBC’s Employable Me that documents an intimate journey with the disabled person along the ‘yellow brick road’ to employment, go a long way to spread awareness. In addition, thinking of adjustments in the workplace to enable access to work can support someone with a disability enter the workforce. If employers can learn to look past the disability to the ABILITY of the person in front of them, then we will be well on the road to change.

Are YOU and your team at work disability aware?  We’d love to hear what your team do, to combat prejudices in the workplace.